Sunday, October 11, 2015

Can The Rest Of Us Find Our Voice On Guns, Too?

About the only aspect of the latest senseless mass shooting, this time in Oregon, is that President Obama, as a result, finally found the voice he should have found far too many shootings ago.  In fairness, though, he finally did say what needed to be said about the issue, in the face of the predictably nonsensical response that Second Amendment rights trump all others--including the right to live (something conservatives now reserve for fetuses).  You have doubtlessly by now either heard the President's speech, or read his words somewhere else on the Internet.  If that is not the case, and because they are worth reinforcing in any event, I offer this link to them.

And I offer this additional link from the Baltimore Sun, for a specific pair of reasons.  First, the Sun's editorial offers a useful comparison to the differences between our public responses to gun violence and terrorism, and the casualty numbers from gun violence and terrorism.  Those differences are telling:  Unlimited public resources to protect against harm to thousands, and absolutely nothing to protect against harm to literally hundreds of thousands.  In the President's own words, "How can this be?"

I'm going to treat the President's question, as we all should, as other than rhetorical in nature.  This sorry state of affairs has to do with the identity of the perpertrators, and the extent to which we subsequently identify with them.  Terrorists, for the most part, come from Islamic nations, or are otherwise sponsored by Islamic followers.  They are almost overwhelming Arabic or African in their ethnicity--in other words, they are dark skinned (as was Jesus of Nazereth, in spite of the efforts of churches everywhere to make him look like a Southern California surfer dude).  In American history, and putting it as mildly as possible, dark-skinned people are not favored as anything but second-class citizens at best, and property at worst.

In contrast, take a look at the assailants in the recent epidemic of mass shootings.  Notice any consistent patterns?  Specifically, a white one?  That's right.  Shooters, and the folks who love them in the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party, have their own demographic profile. Their supporters aren't fond of calling anyone's attention to this, understandably, because it would blow the cover for the entire operation.  Specifically, the expansion of Second Amendment rights for the same of the gun manufacturers' profits, and the racism of the people who buy guns in quantities that exceed any potential ability to use them.

Even Antonin Scalia, who used a judicial eraser in District of Columbia v. Heller to eliminate the Amendment's relationship to a "well-regulated Militia," stated in the same opinion that the right to private ownership of guns was not a blank check to own a gun for any reason or potential use. Nevertheless, that "blank check" philosophy is now the de facto law of the land.  And hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to "life, liberty and property" as a result.

Which leads to my other reason for sharing the Sun's editorial:  its insistence that we do indeed politicize the issue, because to fail to do so does something worse than politicizing the issue:  it trivializes the lives we've lost.  Even worse, it does so despite the fact that, time and again, gun restrictions, whether the far right likes it or not, have proven to work.

Take a look at this link, showing the relationship between tough state gun laws and fewer violent deaths.  Take a look at this one, showing how Australia, a country with a conservative government, has eliminate mass gun violence with very tough restrictions that nevertheless enjoy broad support among the Australian people.  Those restrictions reduced mass shootings to the proper number: zero. And Australia, like the United States, was at one point a frontier country, where private gun ownership was considered a necessity for survival.  Australia has grown up as a nation; we haven't.

And the nonsense the gun restrictions somehow only arms the criminals is just that, and dangerous nonsense at that.  That's not an argument against gun laws; its an argument against any laws.  We understand that laws don't create perfect societies all by themselves.  That's why we have the police and courts in the first place.  Laws are more than an effort to govern our behavior, in any case. They are a statement about our character, as a people and as a nation.  Do we really want that statement to be "everyone for themselves, and G-d against us all"?

We don't have to ban guns, and we should not even bother to try.  That way lies Prohibition, which from the moment of its enactment was a failure waiting to happen.  But even the repeal of Prohibition contained the authority to regulate its sale and distribution.  There is a difference between a ban and a system of regulation designed to protect the public.  It rightly applies to alcohol, but also to weapons other than guns, including explosives and nuclear weapons.  No one questions the need to regulate the latter, although they are "arms" just as much as handguns.

There is, in short, no rational or factual basis for opposing restrictions on guns.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of reason why those restrictions should be enacted.  And the Republicans, who want to somehow shift the discussion to mental health, have no standing to do so.  If you want to increase funding for mental health needs, fine.  But that's at best a piece of the puzzle.  The rest of the puzzle lies in our unwillingness to do what the Constitution does not ban, and what common sense requires us to do.

It's not enough for Obama to get it.  We all need to get it.  Before the next victim is someone we know.  Or love.

Or you.

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